Credit: Illustration: Matt Wood

John Aurgemma, co-owner of Rhode Island Home Improvement, in Warwick, points out that leads, being more scarce, “need to be handled a lot better” from appointment setting through to the finished job. That includes, he notes, more skillful follow-up interaction with unsold customers who, experts suggest, can generate as much as 20% of your volume.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Many companies are reexamining their procedures to ensure that a larger percentage of unsold leads get installed. At New York Sash, in Whitesboro, N.Y., owner Scott Hayes says that in the past, demo/no sales were tossed on a pile and called whenever someone got around to it. These days, unsold prospects are contacted by letter within three days of the sales call, and by phone within the week.

The revised policy seeks to win the business of such prospects and to ensure that everyone who interacts with the company has a positive impression, whether they buy or not. “We want every client to be happy, and we want to maintain the reputation we have worked so hard to get,” Hayes says.

POINT OF RESISTANCE The point of contacting unsold prospects is to find out why they didn't buy and to determine if there's a way to earn their business. Sometimes small incentives dispel hesitation. New York Sash, for instance, gives those who buy when contacted after the initial appointment a $100 gas card.

Michael Johnson, customer service manager for American Custom Contractors, in Rockville, Md., who calls unsold leads back “within three to five days,” says he finds that after identifying what led to a negative decision, the offer to send out the company's owners — William and Demetri Giakoumatos — is persuasive. “People want to feel like they count,” he says.

In many cases, price is the point of resistance, and an offer to simply drop the price causes customers to question the salesperson's credibility. Instead, companies typically adjust proposals — changing trim materials, glass pack, or the product line itself — to accommodate the prospect's budget. “They know they're going to get the same superiority of installation,” Aurgemma says. “The only compromise is that the window may not have all the bells and whistles.”

Pat Pagano, vice president of American Siding & Window Systems, in Urbandale, Iowa, says that at sales meetings he sometimes reads the reasons unsold prospects give for not buying so that salespeople will see just how near they got to closing. He notes that “the better your salespeople get, the fewer opportunities there are for rehash.”